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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

Drinking and Flying Don't Mix For Pilots

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | Mar 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

Many people have anxiety about flying. Although it is reportedly one of the safest forms of transportation, high-profile cases of terrorism, equipment failure, and unexplained crashes make many people apprehensive about buckling in for a flight. After a recent report of a pilot arrested for being intoxicated behind the controls, people may now have something else to worry about.

David Arnston, 60-years-old, of Newport Beach, California was arrested on suspicion of operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The former Alaska Airlines pilot was reportedly under the influence of alcohol when he piloted a plane from Portland, Oregon to John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

After landing the plane, Arnston was given a random chemical test, which turned up a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than 0.13%. FAA regulation § 91.17 prohibits pilots from operating an aircraft with a BAC of 0.04% or greater, the same limit as for commercial drivers in California.

Arnston denied being drunk, but after the positive alcohol test, he was removed from flight duty and later retired. The crew indicated they did not smell any alcohol on Arnston or witness him drinking any alcohol. However, Arnston's co-pilot reported that when the drug tester appeared at the flight gate, Arnston said something to the effect of, “I bet that's for me.”

Arnston now faces criminal charges, with the possibility of up to 15 years in prison. According to a statement by U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker, “Those in command of passenger jets, or any other form of public transportation, have an obligation to serve the public in the safest and most responsible way possible.” Decker continued, “We cannot and will not tolerate those who violate the trust of their passengers by endangering lives.”

Alcohol consumption and high altitude usually gets reported as an intoxicated passenger. The high cruising altitude of a plane can result in alcohol having an increased effect on people. This can lead to drunk passengers attacking the crew, threatening passengers, or even dancing inappropriately. However, experienced airline pilots have the training to know that alcohol can have a heightened effect, as well as the understanding that operating a plane under the influence of alcohol could land them in jail and end their career.

Pilots do not only face disciplinary measures if they are caught flying drunk, they also have to report their DUI to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if they are arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. A DUI must also be reported as part of their routine medical evaluation. A DUI conviction or failing to report a DUI may lead to to the loss of a pilot's certificate.

At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending professionals charged with a DUI in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a DUI conviction can affect your future, threaten your job, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are a pilot facing a DUI, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for 30 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense.

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